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  1. #1
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    Dec 2006
    East Lansing, MI
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    Historical Accuracy in Movies

    A whole lot of what I'll be saying is kind of subjective so while debates can be had on this thread, it will likely be a more opinion-based debate than seeking objective truth. So anyway:

    I'm a big fan of the movie Braveheart. When I first saw it in the theater I thought it was an instant classic and still feel that it is an example of excellent movie making (despite whatever character flaws Mel Gibson may have, and honestly I tend to ignore such things when considering the art, he's an excellent director). And it never occurred to me for a second that the film was entirely accurate to the real history of William Wallace. I mean I very much doubt that he impregnated the princess and therefore it was his son that eventually took the throne (assuming she had a son that followed the Prince in succession). And I've read articles about how the Scots did not start wearing kilts until centuries after the events of the movie. And I'm sure those who know the actual history of what happened then could point to many, many other inaccuracies in both detail and actual history.

    But I generally disagree that these inaccuracies, generally speaking, were filmmaker mistakes (which is not to say that no actual mistakes were made).

    To make a good movie requires many different aspects and if aligning to historical accuracy will cause one to sacrifice other elements that will make a good movie, then the accuracy should probably be discarded. In a movie about Scots of history, it's a more satisfying film if they are wearing kilts so they should wear kilts in the movie regardless of whether the actual subjects did or did not.

    I very much considered Braveheart to be historical FICTION and figure it played fast and loose with the actual events to give the audience a great movie going experience (which I think it did). If it had been very accurate but dramatically unsatisfying because of its adherence to the facts, then the filmmaker would have been making errors.

    That's not to say that historical accuracy isn't valuable. As an example of a film that was very accurate and benefitted greatly from its accuracy is Goodfellas. At least it's very accurate to Henry Hill's account of what happened. I suppose when the story takes place in the world we live in, accuracy is more important. But then in a similar fashion, certain mistakes are allowed for a better movie overall. There are clear continuity errors when characters are talking and odds are, the emphasis was on the best performance of the takes than making sure the shots match up perfectly. So similarly to Braveheart, one thing is sacrificed for a better overall movie.

    Anyway, my general point is that often historical "mistakes" in filmmaking are not necessarily mistakes. The creators might very have been aware of their inaccuracies but correctly decided that it would be a better movie if they intentionally allowed for certain inaccuracies (like Scots wearing kilts).

    So discuss.



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